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The Privileged Playgoers of Shakespeare's London, 1576-1642

The Privileged Playgoers of Shakespeare's London, 1576-1642

Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    The Privileged Playgoers of Shakespeare's London, 1576-1642
    Book Description:

    Besides documenting the predominant presence of privileged patrons in the audience, the author discusses the shape of the privileged life, the place of the privileged in the social structure, the forces that drew so many of them to London, and the factors that made them such avid theatergoers.

    Originally published in 1981.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5366-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. I A Prologue on Playgoers
    (pp. 3-10)

    Until someone perfects a time machine that can whisk a man back four centuries to enjoy an afternoon at a London theater, no one can be certain what kind of people patronized the astounding dramatic activity of the English Renaissance. Who were the people for whom Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Webster, and their fellow dramatists wrote plays? Virtually everyone in London for sixty or seventy years must have known the answer to this question, but it is one of history's continuing ironies that what everyone knows rarely seems worth recording and so must be guessed at in later centuries.

    And there...

  5. II The Privileged
    (pp. 11-51)

    A privileged man was a fortunate man in Renaissance England. Elevated to the upper levels of society, he enjoyed the rewards derived from his gentle blood, his fine education, his wealth, his titles, or his personal achievement. Theology might declare all men equal in the eyes of God, but custom decreed the privileged superior in the eyes of man. Silks, jewels, preferment, estates, learning, power—all belonged to the favored few. Their voices murmured of poetry or politics, travel or trivia. Their bearing bespoke their breeding quite as clearly as their clothes or their coaches. They commanded the armies, made...

  6. III The Privileged in London
    (pp. 52-96)

    Renaissance London was not England writ large—it was not a gigantic multiplication of life in hamlet, manor, countryside, and shire. London was quite different, and her difference stemmed partly from sheer size. By 1576, the city contained at least 150,000 residents; by 1642, perhaps 350,000. Norwich and Bristol, the next largest cities, numbered a mere 12,000-13,000,¹ and most parishes could number communicants at a few hundred or less. It is now almost impossible to imagine the shocking disparity between open countryside or small clusters of houses along a few streets and a metropolis crowded with buildings, labyrinthine with highways...

  7. IV The Privileged as Playgoers
    (pp. 97-167)

    In a city where idleness and outright debauchery abounded, playgoing represented only one of many pleasures available to the privileged. Yet by all accounts, the theater occupied a central, if casual, place in the daily lives of London’s elite. Edward Guilpin’s sketch “Of Gnatho” only slightly exaggerated the regular round of amusement that many gentlemen followed.

    My Lord most court-like lyes in bed ‘till noone,

    Then, all high-stomacht riseth to his dinner,

    Falls straight to Dice, before his meate be downe,

    Or to digest, walks to some femall sinner.

    Perhaps fore-tyred he gets him to a play,

    Comes home to...

  8. V Playhouses, Prices, Parasites, and Profits
    (pp. 168-215)

    Without question, London’s privileged attended the playhouses. Yet, except for the sheer volume of references to these particular playgoers, the record of their attendance tells little about the extent of their patronage. Were they principally devotees of the private houses and relative strangers to the public houses? Did they crowd into the boys’ performances and trickle into the adult presentations? Did they dominate the audiences at private and public houses alike or were they always in the minority? While a definitive resolution of these questions is perhaps impossible, certain aspects of the theatrical enterprise provide helpful clues in determining the...

  9. VI Plebeian Playgoers
    (pp. 216-271)

    As frankly commercial enterprises, the theaters opened their doors to anyone with the price of admission. Except for the performances at Court and at private gatherings, the privileged could not lay exclusive claim to any presentation, for money in any hand bought admission to a playhouse. Thus, according to Thomas Dekker, “the place is so free in entertainment, allowing a stoole as well to the Farmers sonne as to your Templer: that your Stinkard has the selfesame libertie to be there in his Tobacco-Fumes, which your sweet Courtier hath: and that your Car-man and Tinker claime as strong a voice...

  10. VII Epilogue
    (pp. 272-276)

    London’s large and lively privileged set ruled the playgoing world quite as firmly as they ruled the political world, the mercantile world, and the rest of the cultural world. Their own ranks were tremendously varied, reaching from bright but impoverished students, younger sons of gentry families set to a trade, and minor retainers in noble households all the way up to lords, ambassadors, merchant princes, and royalty itself. Though the clever, the ambitious, and the newly rich enormously expanded the ranks of the privileged under Elizabeth and James, they still stood firmly apart from the mass of society. Most people...

  11. APPENDIX A London Wages
    (pp. 277-279)
  12. APPENDIX B Wage and Price Fluctuations, 1264-1954
    (pp. 280-282)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-306)
  14. Index
    (pp. 307-316)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)